Posted in Deep deepness, Life Musings, This is real life.

When words aren’t enough.

I’m a person who believes in words.

I used to believe in words a lot more than I do now. Then I went to journalism school and realized that the dream I had of making a difference through writing was a long shot – not because I’m not a good writer and not because newspapers are dying, but because I wanted to make an everyday, sustainable kind of difference, not a once-in-a-lifetime-story difference.

I believe in words, but they aren’t enough.

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CC attributed to Pierre Metivier

Words have power.

Words can build you up or bring you down.

Words can change a person’s mindset, they way they look at the world, the way they feel about an issue, or perhaps even the way they make decisions about the future.

Words can’t, however, change anything that the person listening to or reading them doesn’t want them to change.

Sometimes, and this breaks my writer’s heart, I have to admit that the words we say and write and read that are so desperately impactful aren’t accessed by those who need them the most. Or perhaps they’re heard, but they simply aren’t believed. Because to believe would be to completely rock the shaky foundation a person has built their life or their sense of self upon.

This year we’ve seen this more than any other year I can remember in the 30 I’ve been alive. From misquoted statements to completely wrong assertions, “fake news” to actually fake news, denials to lip service apologies, we’ve seen that words can’t always do what we want them to do.

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In 2017, we learned that words are not enough. No matter how many people are saying the same ones, we need more than just a chorus of voices and pens and keyboards.

Words are too easy to write off with a different set of quotable we’ve all heard before:

“It’s just a joke.”
“It’s just locker room talk.”
“Boys will be boys.”
“Things will be different.”
“Trust me.”
“I promise.”
“Not everyone is like that.”
“We weren’t there, so how do we know what happened?”

Actions cannot be as easily ignored.

Actions are what will truly matter in 2018.

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CC from http://maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com/Time-For-A-Change-New-Ways-Font-Words-Letters-2015164

Some may expect this to shake my foundation and view of the world – but words aren’t the only thing I have faith in. As I wrote five or so years ago, I also believe in imagination, in the future, and in my fellow human beings. Even when faced with an atrociously bigoted and selfish leader with more followers than I would like, or with people who refuse to acknowledge and surrender their privilege because of fear, I still believe in humanity.

I believe that there is more good in the world than bad.

I believe that we have the ability and the willingness to step up and take control of our future, to make it our own vision of America rather than someone else’s.

I believe that having the bad made so very clearly obvious to us for the past year gives us an opportunity to fight back in ways we could not when the evil in our society was being discussed at private dinner tables, chatted about in subthreads on Reddit, and mumbled under peoples’ breaths.

There are far more of us on the good side than there are on the bad, so let’s believe in ourselves and our ability to impact change.

Mahatma Ghandi made my point more eloquently than I ever could when he said:

You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.

Let’s clean house. Just get a shitload of Dawn and start scrubbing the country down.

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CC from Mike Mozart on Flickr
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Posted in ...for real people, Humor, This is real life.

If my brain live-blogged Zumba after a 1.5 year hiatus

For a number of reasons (one of which was definitely laziness), I decided to take a half-year hiatus with my Zumba classes a year and a half ago. Yes, there’s a distinct difference. For those who may not know me incredibly well, I like to tell people that I “don’t sport,” which is a gross understatement. The good news for you, readers, is that I get extra-sassy/snarky when I’m trying to do anything that could be considered “athletic.”

Here’s an uncensored (fair warning) version of every thought I can remember between 4:21pm when I arrived at the elementary school gym to 5:38pm when I left. Times are rough and approximate, because like, I only remember precisely the beginning, dead center, and close to the end. You’ll see.

4:21 Ok, good, only like 6 people here, I’ll get a good spot. Lemme sign in.

4:22 Yeah, they definitely need this waiver from me because I’m the clumsiest damn person who ever thought about taking Zumba. It’s only a matter of time until I break a bone. Maybe today – who knows?

4:24 Okay, I can see the instructor and my purse from this angle. Second row, middle-ish. Everyone’s going to see me fuck up, but at least I’ll be able to see her well enough to know what I’m not doing right.

4:25 There’s technically-perfect girl who’s been coming for longer than I’ve been teaching, I hope she stands in front of me, because we’re equally white and I can just see what she’s doing when I don’t understand what to do with my butt.

4:26 Hey! There’s my friend that used to work with me! I hope she says hi.

4:27 God, she gives the best hugs. I miss her. Wait – is that pregnant girl? Aw, I bet her kid’s like walking and stuff now. Yikes. At least now I won’t be intimidated by the fact that an 8-and-a-half-month pregnant lady is better at Zumba than I am.

4:28 WAIT. Is pregnant girl pregnant again? Yes! Yes she is! That woman totally just touched the bump and she didn’t yell at her! Well, there goes that silver lining.

4:30 It’s nice that she remembers me, less nice that she pointed out it’s been a while for “some of us.” That’s me, folks, the girl with the tattoos all over her thighs. You were already judging me for that so….bring it, bitches

4:32 Warm up time! Yes! Hey muscles I don’t use on a regular basis! Nice to feel you again! I hope new girl has a good time and comes back. Like, I almost didn’t for the each time for the first month or so, but it got a lot better. I can’t believe I stopped, I’m so stupid.

4:34 Okay, okay, I remember these steppy things, I’m okay, I’m okay. I still hate Despacito, but it’s okay.

4:36 That was fun. I like the ones with grapevine steps. It took me so long to get good at them, but apparently they’re like riding a bike, except not for me because I can’t ride a bike anymore because of the tailbone issue, so like, maybe I’ll start referring to things that are easy as “it’s like doing a grapevine step.” People think I’m weird anyway, so it’ll be fine.

4:37 Yaaaas, lots of simple steps in this one. And the hip bump! I’m so good at the hip bump!

still 4:37 OMG, I can’t believe I can still do that whole clap-under-the-knee thing that quick, I totally thought I was going to fall on my ass when I tried that, but I am still on two feet. Yes. Success. I am amazing.

4:38 Why are these people not picking their feet up? You’re supposed to like, bounce then hop then kick, not drag then step and flail, come on, fam, get into it!

4:39 Okay, okay, this song is a little longer than I anticipated. My legs aren’t going as high anymore.

still 4:39 Maybe if I just like, stop being so bouncy, I’ll still be able to do the leg-clappy-thing.

still still 4:39 Oh GOD I’m going downhill so fast – why was I so energetic at the beginning of this song? Zumba is not a goddamned sprint, Erin, what were you thinking?

4:40 I made it. I made it. I made it.

4:41 Yep, actually drinking water now. While walking. Why is everyone else just standing while they drink their water and talk about how out of shape they are? Did no one listen to her? Like, I’m dying, but I’m still going to keep my feet moving to keep my heart rate up! Rookie move, folks.

4:42 Okay, let’s go. I hope this one is mostly upper body.

4:43 THIGHS? You can’t make us do the jumpy-clap thing and then just be like, “Oh, hey, now we’re going to go squat-jumpy-things.” That’s not okay! That’s NOT okay.

4:44 I swear to God, thighs, if you survive this, you don’t have to do anything for the rest of the week. I won’t wear boots with heels, I’ll take the elevator, just…do this for me.

4:45 My thigh muscles are to me what my students’ language skills are to them. 

4:46 Like, I could feel bad for thinking that, but I’m not going to. Hurtful? Truthful. Christ. It’s like my thigh muscles literally don’t even know how to move, which is what I hear they were designed for, because science.

4:48 Yes, yes, yes. Skinny-twisty-hippy thing. Has to be. It’s in Spanish.

4:50 I know they said the air was off, but it wasn’t really a big deal to me until now…

4:51 Ooooo, that does not feel great. This whole shimmy thing might be a bad idea for me at this particular juncture.

4:53 Okay, okay, okay, self. Let’s just…move from side to side for a minute. You’ll be okay. Just keep your feet moving and for the love of all things holy, do not pass out in this gym.

4:54 Oh God, definitely DO NOT THROW UP IN FRONT OF THESE ADULTS. Get it the fuck together, Erin.

4:55 Okay, feel better. New song, new start. And besides, maybe part of the unsettling thing is embarrassment that you had to stop and like, everyone can see you. NBD, look at the bright side – you probably made new girl feel better she was getting so upset when everyone was doing the spinny stuff and she was out of sync and then everyone saw, so she totally needed that schadenfraude.

4:56 I bet the cast of Avenue Q didn’t have to work out. I could be a puppeteer.

4:57 Oh fuck me, we’re not even halfway through yet. Dear sweet baby Jesus.

4:58 Why did I come to this? I’m so stupid. I love my fat and not being in shape. I don’t need muscles. What I need to do is lower my standards and settle for someone moderately annoying but who can reach things and lift things and do things for me and I can keep being soft and slow and he’ll love me anyway even if he’s a massive loser that I have to support and apologize for. Like, the emotional and mental strain I know how to deal with, so at this point, it might be worth it. We could just have separate bedrooms and maybe I could get a job where I travel a lot.

4:59 Oh goddamn it, if I travel a lot, then I still need to be in shape because my loser, settled-for husband won’t be there to pick things up for me. Shit shit shit.

5:01 Over the halfway mark, so I only have to….do this all over again. I might cry.

5:03 Okay, I am so lost on this one. It’s all footwork. Remember when I was good at footwork when I was like 5 and my dad was my soccer coach? That was a nice time.

5:04 At least I don’t feel like fainting again.

5:05 How unfair is it that I get 0% of either of my parents’ coordination? My dad was a gymnast and my mom likes to dance and here I am, like, “Hi, I’m Erin and I can sometimes stand still without injuring myself.” Sometimes. I’ll just…move my feet in the correct directions and not hop so people don’t realize just how off I am.

5:06 I know everyone knows how off I am. I don’t even care.

5:08 Oh, oh we’re going to use EVERY muscle in our bodies on this next one? Oh good. That will feel awesome. What do you MEAN our fingertip muscles? Those aren’t a thing. They’re like, tendons and squishy flesh. And even if there are muscles, they’re little, and they need to stay little. No one’s impressed by muscular fingers.

5:09 Open a window? There aren’t any windows to open in here. Nice imagery, but like, no one even has functional shutters like that in the United States. Maybe Greece. Are you taking us to Greece? Because then this exercise might be worth it. But to live in the US? Nah. We have to pull the windows up, so why do these muscles need to be in shape?

5:10 I better be able to manually open an elevator after this because my arms are going to punish me all day tomorrow. Are the kids using the Chromebooks? God, I hope so.

5:11 No, no, we’re not doing technology tomorrow, we’re reading the book and writing in our notebooks with me modeling under the Elmo, fuuuuuuuuuuuck. At least A Long Walk to Water is really small, but it’ll probably feel like it’s 25 pounds. Maybe I can put it on a table with like, paperweights. Do I have two paperweights? I have at least one, and like, a shit-ton of stationery implements.

5:12 I CANNOT OPEN A WINDOW SLOWER. No one opens windows slowly. In Disney movies, the princesses like, fling windows open so their fucking bird friends can fly in and help them with their chores. Where are my friends to help me? Nowhere. I have three dogs and a stray possum that refuses to be trapped, and all they do is make more problems for me. Like, I might let rats hang out if they did some chores.

5:14 All the windows are open now. Good. Let’s take it down a notch.

5:15 You did not just say more squats.

5:16 Okay, look, if you really think you want me to lunge-squat-lunge-squat and repeat, then it really has been a while since you had me in class, but okay. I signed that waiver.

5:17 I’m doing it! Hey! Just a little slippery. I’ve got this.

5:18 My thighs do NOT have this. Like, I could do straight squats but that’s the easy way out. I can do this. I can do this.

5:19 Yes, I’m fine. I’m fine. Yes, I’ll just do regular squats. Oh, NOW you remember that I’m the clumsy one? I mean, if you didn’t after watching me fall on my ass (sorry sad tailbone), then you have a shit memory, but whatever.

5:21 Thanks for that reassuring pat on the back, stranger. Like, I actually appreciate that you didn’t pretend you missed seeing the sprawl because you’re right behind me. Real. Honest. I can respect that. But we’re both really gross and sweaty, so could you actually not? Thanks.

5:22 Start out slow and speed up? Mainly upper body? Things I can do. Yes. Will survive. Can continue.

5:23 I hate this song. It’s so over played. And I can’t help singing along, at least in my head…

5:24 …now they always say congratulations…work so hard and now I die at Zumba….

5:26 My dragon is mad. My Wumps are mad. They didn’t sign up for this when they got tattooed on my thigh in January. It was winter and I’d been out of Zumba for like a year, so they thought they’d have this cush, lazy-ass life. Sucks to suck, friends.

5:28 Okay, okay, you survived, it’s time for cool down. Yes, fam, just one more. I am on board.

5:28 & 15 seconds THIS IS NOT A COOL DOWN. WHAT ARE YOU ASKING ME TO DO RIGHT NOW? THERE’S ONLY 2 MINUTES LEFT, I WAS DONE!

5:29 Look, lily-white girls like me don’t know how to move like that. And like, I see that you’re just sticking your ass out, but teacher, what do we do if we don’t have an ass to stick out? #firstworldwhitegirlproblems

5:30 I’m just going to revert to “woman who’s still moving in the correct direction but that’s about all we can say for her” and hold on.

5:32 This next song had better be the cool down or I am going to start crying in the middle of this gym and my friend left at 5:15.

5:33 Oh, praise Beelzebub it’s a cool down.

5:34 Okay, I’m all for female empowerment, but it’s not super-believable that we’re beautiful flowers that are also strong when I feel like I just got ripped from the ground, thrown in the street and run over several times. Perhaps also drawn and quartered if I had enough leaves and off-shoot stems.

5:35 I feel so tired but also accomplished. And she really is a good instructor, like, she’s so encouraging, even when you’re screwing everything up.

5:38 I need to make sure to take my workout clothes to work Thursday so I can just leave from there and there’s less concern.

 

Posted in 29 for 29, Life Musings, This is real life.

29 unforgettable experiences

I’ve had 29 years and 8 months of experiences. And as Colbert would say, I love experiencing experiences. Many of these experiences have made me a better person. Others have made great stories. At the end of the day, these 29 experiences have helped make me the person I am today.

29. Watching my high school football team win the state playoffs. The rain, the chilly weather, and awful playing conditions definitely made the showdown seem Hollywood-worthy. It also solidified my love of the game and being a fan.

28. Riding out a tornado at Sea World. I know, sounds like a Sharknado spin-off, but it happened. While I don’t think it really shaped me, it’s unforgettable.

27. Harvesting wine grapes. Never underestimate the power of a working weekend vacation.

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26. Road tripping late at night.  When you’re in college, it’s always a great idea to drive 5 hours one way from Columbia, MO to Ames, Iowa and back on a weeknight to see Frank Warren speak. It’s also always a good idea to go for extensively long weeknight drives to air out frustration, even if you do end up in Fulton, MO.

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25. Seeing Hot Hot Heat perform at the Blue Note in Columbia, Missouri my freshman year. I didn’t know who they were, but I do now, and it continues to stand as the best concert experience I’ve ever had.

24. Getting my tattoos. There are people who appreciate body art and people who don’t. I OBVIOUSLY love it – even if those two-three weeks after going under the needle are less than comfortable.

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23. Finishing a whole chapstick. No, for real, it happened. I couldn’t believe it, and I don’t think that I’ve ever felt a greater sense of achievement.

22. Finishing my first book. Despite the fact that I will never, ever, ever have that one published, it was truly a labor of love and one of the top 5 things I’m proud of in my life.

21. Seeing Barack Obama speak at Mizzou before the election. It wasn’t just that he was a phenomenal speaker or that he became President, it was the whole process and feeling of the night. When there’s that much energy focused in the same direction, you can feel it in the air.

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20. Getting pulled over for the first time. I drive with purpose. Sometimes that purpose is also quite urgent (or I feel like it is, anyway) and I end up driving a little faster than I should. I doubt that I’ll ever NOT drive like this, but the first time I got pulled over will always stick in my mind when I hit that one speed…

19. Being snow-stranded in NYC. As much as I love my friends and love traveling, I’m really, really bad when my travels don’t go as planned. I learned a ton about my tolerance for incongruity that three days.

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18. Taking a positive psychology class. This class was one of the least-important classes I’ve ever taken, but I also have to say that

17. Seeing my name in print for the first time. It was addictive, and I still miss it a little. But in the end, I’m not about that cutthroat life and I want to actually MAKE change happen, not just write about people who do.

16. My second first kiss. When your first kiss is at age 5 on the playground, the second one is the real first one.

15. Doing missionary work in Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass. The summer after my freshman year of high school, I went on a mission trip with my (soon-to-be-abandoned-by-me) church. A lot of what happened on that trip informed my opinions about missionary vs aid work and helped me realize what I consider to be my ultimate goal in life: helping others.

14. Finally attending an Aimee Mann concert. I’ve loved Aimee Mann’s music since I was but a wee middle school student, so actually seeing her in concert after years of pining was absolutely amazing. It was an experience I’ll never forget.

13. Earning a journalism degree at Mizzou. Believe me, Mizzou’s undergrad program truly deserves its notoriety. There are things you learn about life, people, and the world as a working reporter that you can’t learn any other way. And Mizzou is the best place to do it.

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12. Breaking my tailbone. So much pain. Going to classes and standing up the whole time. Not being able to actually SIT for a while. Whole thing.

11. The first time I bought something in a single-digit size. Yes, body positivity! We’re all beautiful! But really, I still remember the day that I actually fit into a size 8 pants and I started crying in the dressing room.

10. Every time I’ve thrown a dance. I love hosting things, whether it’s at my house or elsewhere. Homecoming at MHS, the Honors dances at Mizzou, I loved all the stress and excitement combined.

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9. Graduating high school. I know, my college degree doesn’t make the cut, but this one does? Yeah, because leaving high school is like discovering that a whole world is open to you. That feeling is the best in the world.

8. Watching the kids I taught for three years move on to high school. I had all the feels with this one, because in my mind and heart, those kids were my kids – still are. I was a hot fucking mess for like 48 hours, but I wouldn’t trade knowing those kiddos for anything.

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7. Buying a house. I’m so bad at making decisions that I can still remember the anxiety I felt at pulling the trigger on buying my house. Yet, I absolutely love it and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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6. Almost flipping my car in the snow. Aaaaaand continuing to drive from Columbia, MO to Olathe, KS because I was determined to make it the hell out of dodge for the holiday. I was a fool. But oh well.

5. Going through therapy. Best decision I’ve made for my own health, ever. If you truly want to know yourself and improve your life, consider it.

4. Adopting & rehabilitating a street dog (or three). Each of my fur babies have come to me with their own stories and their own struggles. Figuring out earn their trust, keep them healthy, and make them a part of the family made me a better person.

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3. Studying abroad in South America. It make have been a short stay, but learning how to communicate across cultures, expanding my horizons, and building connections in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay really made an impact on how I imagined my future and what I believed I could do.

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2. Being a PA. I swear, being a PA was the best preparation for anything life can throw at me. Except like, paying taxes and bills and whatnot. But everything else? Yeah. Definitely. And it gave me confidence I never had before – so I owe ResLife one (or 18,000).

1. Traveling alone. I recently went to the UAE and Ghana, but I’ve been other places on my own before – from Chicago to Boston to road trips galore. Truth is, you learn something new about yourself with each trip.

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Posted in Soapbox Special, This is real life.

8 more years? Pretty please?

Eight years ago, I was so excited for President Obama to be inaugurated that I could barely contain myself.

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I’d recently been to Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay, where I had many conversations in broken Spanish about Barack Obama, sharing excitement with my new international friends over the choices of my home country. I was ready to see what amazing connections were ahead for not just me as a person, but for our country as a whole.

In 2008, I had the privilege of casting my first official Presidential vote for a man I believed in, a man who was classy and inspiring when he came to speak at Mizzou, a man who admitted his flaws, who wasn’t afraid to be genuine with the public (as much as a politician ever is), and a man who I hoped would make me proud to be American again. Then, I’d shared the anticipation then celebration of election night (and a truly delectable fruit pizza) with friends.

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In 2012, I once again cast my vote for President Obama and Uncle Joe. I couldn’t wait to write yet another congratulatory letter to Michelle and BoBama (and the girls, too, I guess). I even stuck a bumper sticker on the back of Chompers.

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You know those things are forever, fam.

So many of my fellow voters had been disillusioned by what they saw as his short comings in his first term that I found myself constantly defending my enthusiasm to vote for him again. Which prompted me to make my election blog focused on celebrating his successes (https://obamawesome.wordpress.com/) rather than on knocking the competition, like 2008’s 72 People Who Would Make a Better President than McCain. Because Uncle Joe is right.

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President Obama never once disappointed me. He even achieved more of what he promised than I originally thought possible. He has been president for the entirety of my pseudo-adult, post-college life. Facing a political atmosphere so very different from what I’ve become a functioning almost-grown-up in is rather intimidating, but I owe it to myself and to President Obama to keep standing up for and working for the betterment of my fellow humans.

What I’m thankful for, more than anything else in the past eight years, is the class, compassion, and level-headedness he embodied while ushering the United States into a more inclusive, equal era. Nothing that happens for the next four years can ever take away the last eight. Even as Obama is leaving, he’s still looking out for us, still the guy who’s supporting us, and telling us that “We’re going to be okay.

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Thank you all for being there for us, and for each other.

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Posted in 29 for 29, This is real life.

#29for29 goals progress update

Instead of New Year’s resolutions, I’m checking in on my own #29for29 goals that are going to run out of time in five short months.

The end of 2016 was pretty cray for me, so let’s see where I’m at.

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  1. Visit two new countries I’ve never been to before.  Ghana and Dubai
  2. Take a cooking class. December 16, Dad and I went to a class that was all about cranberries.
  3. Work out again. For at least a solid 3-6 months routine if not longer.
  4. Attend a gala. Went to the Margarita Ball November 19th to benefit children’s charities.
  5. Plant a tree.
  6. Do something that absolutely terrifies me.
  7. Write a new book. It’s coming along really slowly. I may have to substitute something else here…
  8. Learn how to do one fancy hairstyle really, really well. I can do one fairly decent, but it needs some work.
  9. Make a pilgrimage to my heart-home. Spring Break?
  10. Re-read Jasper Fforde’s books I love and read the new ones for the first time.
  11. While I’m at it, let’s do the same for Harry Potter. Progress so far: I’m in Book 4.
  12. Buy a stranger’s dinner. Did this one a couple of times, actually.
  13. Finally learn to use my sewing machine.
  14. Complete a 30-day photo challenge.
  15. Go clubbing. In two different cities, no less.
  16. Catch up with all the people with whom I never intended to lose touch.
  17. Find a new volunteering opportunity.
  18. Get a makeover, just for fun. Rolled this one into the gala one on November 19.
  19. Have a legit 12-hour movie marathon – topic to be determined.
  20. Finish my “Girl Power” wall of inspiration (for now, I’m never really done with any of my creative projects).
  21. Write fan letters to the five people whose work I admire most. 2 down.
  22. Spend a day completely by myself.
  23. Get another tattoo. Already working on it, should get started within the next week – but it’s a doozy, so it’ll take a couple of sessions.
  24. Color something every. single. week. So far.
  25. Throw a four-course dinner party that I cook myself. December 29th!
  26. Mark one more off my list of the “World’s Most Beautiful Libraries.” George Peabody Library in Baltimore
  27. Learn to meditate.
  28. See at least one more live performance of *something.* I’ve been to so, so many. Seth Meyers, jazz, poetry reading, cultural dancing in Dubai, DNCE in January…
  29. Write a “29” blog post every month. So far!

So. 11 done, 5 in progress, 2 good so far, and 11 to go.

Still making it! But I need to get a small move on, because I’m over halfway out of time and not quite halfway done with the list. I’m sure I can do it.

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Posted in 29 for 29, Life Musings, This is real life.

29 priceless possessions

Let’s be real: my life has been a little bit off the rails as of late, and I’ve been a little bitter. And I tried to excise the bitterness by letting it all out…but…it’s probably impossible at this point. So to refocus, for myself, I’m writing about some good things in my life.

29. My autographed Cash Cab tee Buzzed-Erin may have embarrassed herself to get this autographed, but it was a good choice anyway.

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28. Cake Y’all, I’m not sure that anyone truly understands how much I love cake. But I do.

27. Mirrors You never truly understand how important a mirror is until you spend 2 weeks without one.

26. Piano It’s rare that I actually sit down and play my old piano these days, but the choice to do it when I simply need to is vital in my life.

25. Tapestry For years, this thing didn’t fit the rest of my style – and it still doesn’t, but it does fit the fairytale-themed guest room in my house.

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24. My grandfather’s hat Sentimental, sure. Does it fit my head? Not at all. But I do love it.

23. Humor & wit One of the traits that my students love about me is also one of the things I love about myself.

22. An eye for unique style and taste One thing I don’t get is how other people decorate their homes. Like, did you look at a magazine and just model your whole house after what you liked best? (Yes, apparently, some people do that.) I love that everything I buy is unique – or at least put together in a unique way. Not everyone can do that.

21. Love of reading Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book. – Anonymous

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20. Sewing machine desk Was it legitimately inherited? Yes. Does it make me a hipster? Yes. Do I care? A little.

19. Health Somethings you can’t buy with money or obtain no matter what lengths you go to – and overall health is one of them. I’m thankful for every disease I don’t have.

18. Music It is the food of the soul.

17. Opportunity to impact change I love this part of my job. But the truth is, we all are given this opportunity in the US and how many of us use it?

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16. Respect Not only is respect earned, but it’s often not given even when you do earn it. So I treasure having it from those I do.

15. Memories Important, but they fade.

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14. Compliments I’m terrible at accepting them, and they make me uncomfortable, but the world would be a much meaner place without them.

13. International art collections An example of true cultural exchange in my living room. Pardon the fact that my summer travel spoils have yet to be framed and placed.

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12. Intelligence Not everyone has it, and though it often makes life more difficult, I’m thankful that I was graced with it.

11. Photographs There was a time in my life that I didn’t take enough, and so I cherish my photos now, rather than whine about the #selfie culture.

10. Mental health Somethings you can’t buy with money or obtain no matter what lengths you go to – and overall health is one of them. I’m thankful for every disease I don’t have.

9. Tattoos Yes, these rank above my general health, because when I’m dying or desperately ill, or even dead…my tattoos will still be there. #stayingpower

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8. Friendships My biggest dream in life was to have friends who become family – not just because I loved the TV show growing up, but because having a family of friends means that they chose me, not that they were stuck with me, and I’m so thankful and humbled that I have one.

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7. Degrees/diplomas Generally representative of education, these also mark times when I was successful (no, I don’t have the one from this year up yet).

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6. Self-confidence Some people are born with it. I was not. I faked it most of my life, and worked hard to actually create it the rest…and it’s not always as strong as I’d like. But having it is worth the work, because it makes a world of difference.

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5. Imagination/creativity This, however, is something that I was born with. And it’s such a huge part of who I am that I don’t know who I would be without it.

2-4. Dorrie, Skeeter, and Tigerlily My precious babies.

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1. Oatmeal My stuffed dog is the real MVP, y’all. I mean really. He has been my constant source of comfort and companionship my entire life – even when I realized all those imaginary friends were fake. Oatmeal listens and commiserates, even after all this time. (Always.)

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Posted in ...for real people, Life Musings, Soapbox Special, This is real life.

Why I Voted for Her.

In past years, I’ve had a political blog (or two) about my candidate of choice. But this year, I couldn’t rally enough love for any of the candidates to write a single post. I’m a woman. This doesn’t mean I support Hillary. But it sure as hell means I’m against Trump. So here we are, election season going strong, and I have found the need to say…something. Anything. Here goes.

Today, when early voting opened in my home state, I made damn sure that I made it before they closed to vote for Hillary Clinton.

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I don’t like her. Like, at all. I have theories about how she’s a soulless robot or has teeth where you shouldn’t…but those are ridiculous and neither here nor there.

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I much prefer Jill Stein, to be honest. However, I chose to compromise my own personal preference to vote in a way that might matter just a little more – because while every vote counts, I learned long ago that voting for a third-party candidate is a road to heartbreak (college-Erin was very psyched about Kinky Friedman running for governor).

Still, I voted for Hillary because I know how very hurtful a leader like Donald Trump would be to our future, particularly the future of minorities and women. And I need to do more than just complain about how there are no good, electable candidates.

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For those of you, regardless of gender, who say that Trump’s comments are not as large a concern for you as other issues, I respectfully disagree with that ranking for a number of reasons – but most of all, I disagree with it because if he’s willing to go against social norms that began to be established around the late-19th century, what else is he willing to throw out the window? Is this really a man we want in charge when we’re facing a real racial tension problem across our nation? Is he the person who’s going to continue to help us move forward as a society rather than backward?

I personally think he’s the worst one for the job.

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To those of you who say that his words are normal, that they’re not a concern at all…I would ask you to consider what that says about you.

I would ask you to realize that you are the people who hurt people like me the most.

I’ve had a lot of experiences with guys in my life, both positive and negative. I have never been seriously sexually assaulted or raped, and I’m thankful for this. But sexual harassment and gender discrimination have shaped my daily interactions with not just men, but women as well, my entire life.

Take, for example, the coworker who thought it was okay to “compliment” me in a coworker’s room by telling me how good I looked after losing 70 pounds…and then take it further by rubbing my criss-crossed thighs and saying, “You’re flexible, too, that’s hot.”

Funnily enough, that coworker’s actions bother me more than the guy I was interviewing, on trial for rape, who asked me, “Hey girl, how you feelin? You happy to be assigned to my case? You know I like women who have more curves to love.” (He was guilty, just FYI.)

An instance I actually like to laugh about is a blind date I was set up on by a friend. During those first getting-to-know-you back and forth, I discovered that apparently, a woman owning a house (or probably property in general) was a deal-breaker for my date. He wanted a wife who would move into his house that he owned, change nothing, and essentially just fill the role that his maid, take out, and (I conjecture)porn filled in his single life. When I called my friend from the bathroom, his answer was, “Yeah, I hoped that he wouldn’t be so misogynistic on the first date, sorry…”

Or the time that I, as a teacher, was sexually harassed by a student and when another came to my defense (though I have to admit, he chose an inappropriate avenue to pursue), the defending student got in trouble and my harasser became a victim to be pitied.

But really – here’s the truth: I, like many other women, judge a man not only by how he treats me, but how he allows others to treat me.

And if I’ve already decided that I care about you, that you’re a good person, and you matter to me…and then you let “locker room talk” or “bros before hos” be a reason you won’t stand up for me.

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So while I was of course upset at the freshman stupidly grinding all over me in the hallway when I was the on-call PA my junior year of college, despite my orders (and eventually pleas) for him to stop, he wasn’t the reason that I cried when I got back to my room. Yeah, he was a complete dick (though from looking at his Facebook profile now, he seems to be a respectable human being), but I could write him off as an idiot who I didn’t care about. 

I couldn’t do that with the two male coworkers who laughed at his antics and not only didn’t help, but encouraged it. The ones who, when I asked them to help me and back me up on this, went along with his jokes, telling me if any of us touched him, he could file charges against us (we all knew he couldn’t). Because apparently, rubbing yourself on a woman when she’s telling you to stop is hilarious. Just a giant joke. It took a third male coworker showing up and immediately inserting himself between us to protect me to end that show. 

You know, what hurts me most when these things happen isn’t the asshole perpetrators – it’s the thoughtless actions, non actions, and comments from those I respect.

What really hurt was my friends finding nothing wrong with the situation, which told me that I had no right to feel uncomfortable, or maybe even that I wasn’t worth protecting. That I didn’t have value to them.

What really hurt was that a teenager could harass me and get away with it because he, too, had something bad happen to him, and while violence should be punished (I agree), talking to your female teachers like they’re pieces of meat put in the classroom for you to lust after isn’t (I don’t agree).

What really hurt on that blind date was my friend knowing that the guy he set me up with was a misogynist, and thinking that it would be okay to offer me as a potential romantic pursuit.

What really hurt was needing to continue to cover that story, somehow unbiased, because his idiotic comments had given me a window in with his lawyer if I didn’t publish them. My harassment became a positive tool in the eyes of journalists (me included), and it took years for me to see what was wrong with that.

What really hurt was the fact that I didn’t even realize that I had been sexually harassed by my coworker because I’m so used to that kind of treatment, and then feeling even more ashamed that I hadn’t spoken up in the first place.

What will hurt the most is if you disregard my rights, fears, and needs as a woman in this society and vote Trump, a man who sees women not as equal to men, but as pieces of meat – at best, as animals. Voting for Trump shows me that you don’t care about me or any other woman you know.

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